UNHCR concerned as Pakistan halts pre-registration of new Afghan refugees at Chaman border crossing
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 26 (UNHCR) - The U.N. refugee agency Monday expressed its alarm at a decision by Pakistan to halt the pre-registration of new Afghan refugees at the Chaman border crossing because of the difficult local security situation.
At the same time, more stable conditions in other parts of the region were underlined by the arrival on the Afghan capital, Kabul, of UNHCR's first relief convoy, the return to that city of more than 1,500 civilians during the weekend and the imminent arrival in Iran of additional equipment as part of the agency's efforts to build up its stockpiles.
Following the decision by the Pakistani authorities at Chaman, an estimated 2,000 civilians were spending the night in the open outside UNHCR's local staging point in the region, Killi Faizo. The latest move came two days after officials barred the registration of males between the ages of 20 and 40, because of the security risk posed by the possible imminent arrival of large numbers of Afghans, including Taliban fighters, from Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.
The refugee agency was particularly concerned at the latest development because more and more malnourished children have been spotted among recent arrivals, indicating a deteriorating humanitarian situation inside Afghanistan. Sunday, four children were hospitalized and a fifth on Monday.
UNHCR was able to transfer 1,645 people from Killi Faizo to the Roghani camp, bringing its population to 9,500 people, but was unable to use the vacated space at the border because it was now not allowed to register people waiting outside.
Elsewhere, the first UNHCR relief convoy reached Kabul Sunday carrying tents, blankets, plastic sheeting and jerry cans for 10,000 people.
A distribution of a 'winterization package' containing charcoal, stoves, quilts, blankets, sheeting and clothing for 10,000 people which started last week, will be finished by the end of November. Additionally, a similar number of persons living in the area around the capital will shortly be provided with these packages through the support of local non-governmental organizations.
While conditions remained relatively stable in Kabul, UNHCR monitors at four main entry points reported 1,500 people returned to the capital during the weekend. Most had fled during the allied bombing and decided to return before the start of winter. City streets were busy during the day and most commodities were available, though a curfew is in effect after sunset.
Other civilians left Kabul, returning to homes in the Shomali Plains region which has been heavily damaged during years of fighting.
In another sign of increasing normalcy, the number of persons crossing into Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province dropped from a daily rate of 4,500 people to 1,000 since the fall of Kabul and Jalalabad. Afghans going in the opposite direction and returning home at the Torkham border crossing reached a recent record high of 2,500 persons daily.
UNHCR was building up its emergency stockpiles in Iran. Water equipment including 10 pumps, 10 collapsible 2,000-litre water tanks and accessories was expected Monday from the United Kingdom as were 2,000 tents from Lahore, Pakistan in coming days.
A U.N. security assessment team will shortly begin an evaluation of conditions in the western town of Herat and surrounding areas to decide if it is secure for UNHCR and other U.N. international staff to deploy to the region. The refugee agency has already reopened its Herat office with local staff.